The next real killer app

Writes Bob Sacks in his unmissable daily newsletter:

Many of you have relied on my prescience about the future of media for decades. Today I want to discuss something that will and will not be “Game Changing”.

First up is mobile video. Mobile video is a thing but not THE big thing. Although it will no doubt be a multi-billion-dollar part of the media industry, it isn’t going to be as large as some predictions and some prognosticators make it out to be. Like VR it has strong limitations, and that is why I see it not necessarily as a pet rock but as just another tool, perhaps even a small tool in the media mix. Where in your day-to-day activities will you put on a VR headset and withdraw from society? On your commute to work (do you have one)? When you get home from work or school? Perhaps after putting the kids to bed, you and your spouse will don separate VR headsets and watch movies or play games? Yes, that could happen. But I ask you, on what scale?

The same limitations hold true for mobile video. It has a place and a larger one than VR ever will, but at what scale? The places in your daily life when you might watch mobile videos are much larger than VR but not infinite.  It is a worthy tool but limited in its potential time use due to what it actually is, a mere facsimile of a larger TV experience. Good, but not better. Quick bursts of fun or instructional time, but limited as to when and where.

Now the internet of things (IOT) and Alexa Voice Service (AVS) or it’s equivalent is truly unlimited. They can and will be used at any time throughout the day. Here is the thing about IOT — it will eventually become so ubiquitous, so ever present in damn near everything with an on/off switch, that it will become totally invisible to us, with the exception of those rare moments when there is no IOT connection.

As I and many others have stated for the last decade, attention is monetizable.  Attention is the modern media currency. It is what we trade our wampum for in the age of always on connectivity.

IOT and voice services will be everywhere, in every room in your house, in your car, on your smartphone, at work and imperceptible till you need them. They will soon have personalities, genders and natural language.

I have had the Beta version of Alexa since the day it came out. It is fully integrated into my family’s life in the rooms that we have them. It is not yet in every room of my house, but I’ll bet you that in five to ten years it will be.  Publishers take note. I listen every morning to the Economist, NPR, BBC, CNN and AP. I  listen to music through Alexa from Spotify and Pandora. I should be able to request recipes from Food Network or Allrecipes. I can get the weather, driving times and distances. I can get traffic updates and notices from my personal calendar. All this and more is available today, right now. With just a little imagination the possibilities are endless for information distributors formally known as publishers. 

The Ad Age article he is commenting on:

The superstar of Consumer Electronics Show 2017 was not a car, or a robot, or even a TV. It was Alexa Voice Service (AVS), the software that allows you to control compatible devices with your voice. Various reports estimated there were 700 to 1,100 Alexa-controllable products at the show. I can’t verify the number, but “and it works with Alexa” was the running gag at CES. The familiar Amazon/Alexa logo seemed to be everywhere.

Why Alexa Is “the” killer app

The 1960s vision of living in George and Jane Jetson’s house has not been realized at scale. While it is possible to build a smart home where everything from the window shades to the television to the HVAC are self-aware and work in a perfectly balanced, AI-controlled, automated way, in practice, it’s just too hard to accomplish. Devices really don’t talk to other devices — at least not in meaningful ways. This is especially true if you try to mix devices from different manufacturers. The internet-of-things industry has been waiting for a killer app, an app like Apple Homekit or Google Home, but neither of those has delivered on the promise of a “grand unified smart home universe.”

Enter Alexa … the Killer App for IoT. If we learned anything at CES this year, we learned that anything that can be connected to Alexa will be connected to Alexa. That truly changes everything!

Creating interoperable technology is not an evolutionarily stable strategy for most IoT manufacturers. The margin is in the ecosystem, not in any particular piece of hardware. However, by adding AVS functionality to a device, it instantly becomes pseudo-interoperable. Voice control is the killer, unifying app for IoT, and, at the moment, Alexa is the biggest name in voice control

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